What Constitutes A Bad Travel Day?

2014 has been one of my rougher travel years. I’ve endured inexplicably lost luggage (that I never wanted to check to begin with), passengers behaving badly or rudely or just unchivalrously.  I’ve had several separate travel days that involved numerous cancellations, shuffling between airlines, or lengthy delays.  I’ve had disappointing hotel stays and times I’ve needed to complain.

I’ve taken it all in stride because I’ve pretty much dealt with it all before and this is just what I do – “buck up, buttercup” could be my motto.

But yesterday (Sunday, December 7) I had another one of those days – a bad travel day – that didn’t seem like it was going to end.

It started sometime in the wee hours of the morning.  I was sharing a twin room at the Grand Hyatt Bali with a travel friend.  We were on the last night together on the Indonesian adventure that had begun two and half weeks earlier.  I woke up sweating – tossing and turning- and I wasn’t sure if I was getting sick but it felt like the heat had been turned on.  I checked the thermostat which showed our room temperature at 25C (or about 77F).  It had been set on 20C (68F) at bedtime.  I played with the fan settings and decided to notch it down to 18C (around 64F) to see if I could cool the room down.

A couple hours later, my friend was at the side of my bed (where the thermostat was) and trying again to adjust it.  The room as now 26C (79F).  We both suffered through the heat before realizing we would not fall back asleep.  We notched it down to 16C (61F) and left for breakfast.  When we returned, the room was 27C (81F) and she called down to the front desk for an engineer, since we were not due to check out until 1 pm and needed to pack and shower.  As the day’s temperatures were rising, it would likely only grow hotter.

A technician came and attempted to repair the unit only to announce that it was our entire unit of rooms (a four story building) and he would need to make repairs on the roof as the entire system was broken.  We decided to create our own natural air flow by opening the screen door on the balcony as well as the bathroom and also the front door to the room to create a natural breezeway.  This at least kept air circulating while we both repacked our bags for the coming days.  At one point, I was so hot that I stripped down to a tank top and panties… which was slightly immodest since the open front door of the room seemed to invite every housekeeper or groundskeeper at the hotel to want to walk into our room to see what was going on.  But no one could/would fix the problem or propose another solution so we soldiered on, finally taking turns closing off the bathroom to shower while the other stood guard, so we could prepare to leave at 1 pm.

The hotel didn’t even offer an apology for the inconvenience, a major disappointment on a day that the heat index was already 37C (99F) at noon due to the 95% humidity and the room was only a couple degrees off the 29C (84F) temperatures outside.  But at least we were clean and airport bound, a major plus.

We arrived at the airport.  The brand-new terminal at Ngurah Rai (Bali’s international airport) is nice and certainly more visually appealing than the old terminal.  But the air circulation and crowding issues persist, now just with fancy window dressing.  But that was the least of the problems.

Cathay Pacific had long lines for check-in.  We waited for a while in the business class check-in line.  I got checked in with no issues but my friend had switched flights that morning and American Airlines never finished issuing the ticket.  The Cathay staff was unable to reach anyone in the States on the phone numbers they had and we were also unsuccessful at dialing the US, even using non-800 numbers.  I finally made a desperate plea to a few Executive Platinum friends in the States via Facebook and one was kind enough to call and sort out the issue that Cathay could not resolve.  While I’m lucky to have access to many others with travel knowledge, I shudder to think of what would happen to a non-status passenger with no special contacts.  This debacle plus check-in issues ate up over 45 minutes of our time and I was dripping with sweat from standing in that hot area of the airport for all that time.

Then it was off to the long immigration line – while not as long as the famed two to three hour entry lines, a long exit line is not fun either.  And then the snaking walk through all of the new duty free shops (a London Heathrow style maze).  And finally we made it to the lounge that Cathay Pacific uses at Ngurah Rai – the Plaza Premium Lounge.

Only the lounge was too full.  The desk agents told us we needed to come back in 30 minutes because they had too many passengers.  But then offered to welcome in the guests behind us.

Plaza Premium

(click to enlarge)

I balked so they took our tickets and let us walk around… but they were correct.  There were no seats and other standing guests were camping out like hawks watching for any passenger who looked to be gathering their belongings.  It was a dreadful sight.

Plaza Premium DPS

(click to enlarge)

I remembered reading on FlyerTalk that a second lounge existed so I asked at the front desk – “oh yes, there is another one down another gate” the agent volunteered.  Why they were not directing traffic there, I have no idea.  We walked down and found a similarly sized lounge at the next gate.  This lounge was also full but the agents were proactively acting as hostesses and guiding guests to specific available seats.

I was happy to settle in after an eventful day.  After sorting through my belongings, I got up to get two Angkor beers for us – but as I turned to walk back to the table, I was suddenly airborne.  It seemed my foot had caught the unfinished edge of some wood flooring.

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

I struggled to land upright, stumbling several feet until a pillar broke my fall.  I landed on the side of my opposite foot and luckily not arm or hand down or I certainly would have broken my wrist or arm.  Instead I broke my toe.

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

The lounge staff came rushing over but seemed more concerned that I might have damaged furniture or belongings.  I waved them off.  My flight was departing in less than an hour and I knew that if things became too involved, there was a likelihood I’d miss my flight if they insisted I be looked at by a medical professional.  I’ve had enough broken toes to know that there wasn’t much they could do for me anyhow.  Luckily another passenger had a nice medical kit and helped me tape up the broken toe to stabilize it.

I iced my toe with the cold can of beer while cockroaches scurried around my unharmed foot.  (I kid you not… cockroaches already in the year old new terminal.)

We made our way back to the Cathay gate to board.  A long line had already formed, as they board all status passengers along with business class, so that line already had 40+ people in it.  We made it onboard and settled in for the 4+ hour flight to Hong Kong.  I was looking forward to a few glasses of good champagne.  I enjoyed my pre-departure glass as I elevated my sore foot.

We took off an I ordered another glass of champagne.  “I’m sorry, we are out of champagne.”

What?!

“I’m sorry, we are out of champagne.  We only had one bottle and it is gone.”

Slightly rattled, I ordered a glass of sauvignon blanc instead.

The purser came to visit me and explained that they do round-trip catering to/from Bali and that they passengers on the flight down drank quite a bit and as a result, they were short many beverages.  She told me they were also almost out of the wine I was currently drinking so she was going to bring me a generous second glass so that I could be assured a second glass.

Sure enough, by the time dinner was served, they were out of all white wines.  I switched off to the shiraz.

Ugh… nothing like taking a business class flight with limited offerings.  The icing on the cake of a bad travel day.

Fortunately I made it to Hong Kong in one piece.  I said goodbye to my friend who was headed off to connect to a CX flight to San Francisco.  I was to spend the night in the city and fly home 20 hours later.  I made my way through immigration, onto the Airport Express, and checked into my upgraded king suite at the Sheraton Hong Kong.

Finally my bad travel day had ended as I drifted off to sleep in my room overlooking the corner of the Peninsula, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, and Victoria Harbour.  I was finally back in familiar territory and had survived another bad travel day to tell the tale.

At the end of it all, I am amused at myself that I can handle weather cancellations, mechanical delays, and other systemic failures.  But what will ruin my day every time is often the soft offerings – how airline or hotel or lounge staff deal with issues.  Or whether issues could have been foreseen and thus prevented.  This wasn’t my first bad travel day – and it won’t be my last – but it was definitely not they way I wanted to begin the end of an otherwise wonderful vacation!

Comments

  1. Is it wrong that I laughed at “(click to enlarge)” below the pic of your swollen toe?

    Certainly an injury like that counts as a bad day period, not just a bad travel day. But for the rest, your bad day was one that would have been much worse for others. You had 45 stressful, uncomfortable minutes at the counter but the no status unconnected customer would have had a day long delay sorting out the ticket issues. You suffered through a wine refill without bubbles (horrors) while the 200 folks in the back of the bus were crammed into half your space. For them, an overseas flight in to Business class with a shortage of champagne would have been a flight of a lifetime, not a bad day.

    For me, this is why I “play the game”. It’s not about the freebies, it’s about the comfort of the trips I take anyway. Knowledge and status make the horrible days merely bad, and the bad days decent.

    • Things could *always* be worse. When I’m paying a premium price for travel (be it in cash or miles or points – and this trip had some of each) then I don’t think I’m “lucky” to get less than what the product actually is. On an airline like Cathay, you don’t *just* pay for the big seat, you pay for the service and the food/beverage and the lounge access. My friend with no status shouldn’t have needed me to have connections in the US to get her ticket reissued. A premium airline shouldn’t undercater for a return where they cannot reprovision. And lounges should definitely not be grossly overcrowded on what was not even a fully booked travel day for the airport load-wise.

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